Time for the second in our mini-series all about wedding catering, with expert advice from Libby Summers, of leading Southeast caterer – Caper & Berry. Last time we discussed Libby’s top tips for choosing your wedding caterer, menu tastings and evening food. Today I’m sharing Libby’s advice on the cost of wedding catering and how to save money.
The cost of wedding catering is likely to be one of the biggest expenses in your budget. That’s because good food is usually a big part of your wedding celebrations, it’s key to an unforgettable guest experience. And good food doesn’t come cheap. It can be tempting to find ways to cut corners but, unless you know the best places to save money, you can end up making some disappointing decisions.
From what to look out for in your wedding catering quotes, right through to how much money you need to put behind the bar – Libby has the expert advice you need…
What do couples need to look for in their wedding catering quotes?
A great deal of venues we work at are dry hire, meaning you get the venue itself and maybe some tables and chairs but nothing else. At Caper & Berry, we break our quotes down into three things: the food cost (covering all the catering, from three courses through to the evening food), the staffing cost, and then the cost for all the other less glamourous things like kitchen setup, transport, delivery, etc. We don’t leave anything off…if you need a side plate, it’s included in the quote.
You need to compare quotes, like for like. Do all quotes include everything, even the additional costs? Are there any higher delivery times to consider? What’s included from the venue? It’s easy to think one quote is much more expensive than another until you realise they don’t include the same things.
Look out for your tables and chairs, because they make a huge difference on cost, and also what cutlery, crockery, glassware and linen are included. Our standard range is actually really beautiful, and what a lot of company’s call their premium range, but of course you can add in anything you want.
What upgrades can couples make?
Some examples would be coloured linen, coloured water glasses, gold rim plates. A lot of people don’t factor these upgrades into their costings. Pinterest and Instagram are incredible, they are beautiful things. However, many clients bring in an image, wanting to recreate it, and are surprised when we say they will be looking at £12 or £15 per person to make it happen. I then help them pick out the bits that they really like, to fine-tune the styling. Creating a concept that will still make an impact but within budget.
The most important thing to remember is the guest experience. Sometimes you don’t need to spend a lot to create lasting memories. If you’ve got beautiful flowers and you’re in a beautiful setting, your guests are more likely to appreciate £1000 behind the bar than £1000 spent on gold cutlery and glassware. Obviously, if your budget stretches to anything that’s great – but if you’ve got to pick and choose what to spend your money on, focus on the experience and memories. Alcohol, food, a better band, photography that you’re going to keep for the rest of your life, a wedding planner.
How would you recommend couples save money on the cost of wedding catering, if needed?
It depends what they want. Going for expensive canapes and a two-course meal works quite nicely. It’s still a very similar amount of food but you save on the cost of crockery and cutlery etc. The drinks reception time at a wedding is so under-utilised. Often couples get whisked away to have their photos, and guests are left standing for two hours. Have some really cool cocktails, some Aperol spritz, some gin and tonics…a bar with loads of different options, and the canapes. It makes the drinks reception really fun and interesting, rather than the stagnated idea of just canapes and champagne.
If only having two courses, which course would you skip?
It depends on the wedding cake. You could have canapes, starters, and mains – then have the speeches and a little gap – before having incredible evening food. Such as an amazing cheeseboard, the wedding cake, and maybe some additional treats like double dipped chocolate Oreo lollypops and chocolate covered strawberries.
Alternatively, a big trend for us this summer was amazing canape receptions. Huge antipasti buffets with gorgeous styling, little tapas bowls, and plenty of little bites. It works nicely in place of a starter. Then guests sit down to have mains and a pudding.
Is a buffet cheaper?
From a caterer’s point of view, a buffet can be a lot more work than a sit-down meal. First of all, you have to provide significantly more food, because people pile their plate much higher than we would serve. There is also a lot of food waste as people don’t eat everything. Then there is the hire of all the serving-ware and linen, and the cost of staff behind the buffet. At Cater & Berry we don’t like to do unmanned buffets because you still need people to top up wine, top up the buffet food, and clear plates etc.
We always say – the first person to go up for a buffet has the most incredible experience but by the 120th person, after someone’s spilled some rice and something else has been knocked over, it’s not the same experience.
How many staff do you need?
Couples often think cutting down on staff is a good way to save money, but it’s not. We want your day to be seamless and as perfect as possible. Having the right team to support the couple makes everyone’s day a thousand times better.
At Caper & Berry, for a wedding of 100 people we would suggest: an event manager, 1 or 2 head waiters (depending on logistics), and 1 member of waiting staff per 10 guests. You would normally have tables of 10, spread out around the room, and 1 member of staff dedicated to each table. This gives guests familiar, lovely service. They know who to ask if they need more wine, for example, because they speak to their table’s waiter. The same numbers work for a drinks reception, with canapes being served. For the evening you then need bartenders as well.
How many drinks do you need, and how much money should you put behind the bar?
If you can afford to give your guests their drinks for free, do. Sacrifice something else in order to give free drinks, because it’s a huge part of the celebration for so many people and can make such a difference to the guest experience and atmosphere.
Your catering event manager should work out the quantities for you, you shouldn’t need to worry about that. You just work out what you want, in terms of drink selection, and they should take care of everything else.
Also, if you do intend to supply alcohol yourself, remember to check if your caterer charges corkage. We don’t charge corkage at Caper & Berry, so you can bring in anything you want.
In terms of money behind the bar, it depends on whether your guests are big drinkers. Think about who your guests are and how many drinks you think they will each have, on average. People usually drink less than you would think, so keep that in mind.
It’s so helpful to get some expert advice from Caper & Berry on the cost of wedding catering and how you can save money – in a way that will enhance your day and not leave guests disappointed. Working out the best use of your wedding budget and planning the logistics of your day are both areas I can help, as a wedding planner, so why not get in touch and say hello? And keep a